Blog Monday, July 20, 2015 - 05:30
  In May this year, a man from Mangaluru Sumith S Rao wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi asking why he should give up his LPG subsidy when politicians and elected representatives enjoy many perks in life.   Read: Why should I give up my LPG subsidy?   Now, Prasanna Karthik R, a a management consultant based out of Delhi has countered Rao's arugment. Here is Karthik's letter.   My response to an open letter (addressed to the PM) that argued why a certain business man (Sumith S Rao) will not give up his LPG subsidy.   Dear Mr. Sumith S Rao,   The Prime Minister made an appeal to the rich and wealthy to give up their LPG subsidies in the interest of our nation. In response you wrote an open letter to the PM, arguing that as politicians do not give up their privileges, you will not give up yours. Extending this logic, Indian politicians do not guard our borders, fight our enemies and risk their lives - so can our soldiers say they wouldn’t do it either? Why is it that the rich needn’t give up their paltry LPG subsidies, but our soldiers should give up their very life in the interest of our nation? Let’s not forget that a soldier does not join the armed forces because he wants to die, he joins the forces so that we don’t die. You argue that you will not give up your LPG subsidy because politicians have crores of rupees in wealth, while the common man doesn't. Will the availing of LPG subsidies by the rich solve this problem? Against every uneducated and greedy politician in every election, there are many educated but not so wealthy candidates burning with a soldier like zeal to serve the nation. Do we even take note and vote them to power? How often do we proactively campaign for such people? In most cases, such honest candidates lose their deposits, leave alone the election. The corrupt, the rich, the divisive, and the greedy do not enjoy constitutionally provided safeguards to get elected by default. On the contrary, we citizens have the constitutional responsibility to elect our leaders; voting is not just our right, it is our solemn responsibility. And when we repeatedly fail in fulfilling our responsibility, who is to blame? You have a problem with legislators unanimously agreeing to hike their pay. Even I have a problem with that, but my problem is that the hikes are too less. The Prime Minister of India, who manages a 2 trillion USD economy earns about 1.6 lakhs per month, but a pass out from a tier-1 business school earns much more. India needs to incentivise honest educated citizens with no backing of family wealth, to aspire and make a career in politics; this is the only way to cleanse our politics, and this requires attractive pay and perks matching the private sector. This is a lesson we need to learn from Singapore, else we will only have the Akhilesh Yadavs and MK Stalins masquerading as the new and fresh face of change. I would rather have our leaders well paid, well taken care of, well fed, well treated, and well rested; and hold them accountable for their performance, delivery and development record than the price at which they get a plate of idli-sambar. Let's not confuse poverty with integrity, and let’s not mix scarcity with character. And more importantly, let's not be penny wise pound foolish. We need to ask the right questions to get the right answers and results from our politicians. You compared Indian politicians with German politicians; why not compare Indian citizens with German citizens? After the World War II, the German citizens came together as a nation, put Germany before their self, and toiled tirelessly to rebuild their nation. German citizens do not damage public property; they do not spit, urinate or litter in public. German citizens so not break queues or jump signals. They do not vote on caste lines or remain indifferent to what's happening around them. Our problem is not that our politicians are not as exemplary as German politicians are; our problem is that we Indian citizens are not responsible like how the Germans are, and this is a much deeper problem. Like John F Kennedy said, let’s not ask what the country did for us, rather let us ask what we did for the country; more importantly, let us not stop at just asking. We can give a hundred reasons why we as citizens need not change, and point our fingers in every direction possible; but if we do that, we just have to look into the mirror to come face to face with that one strong reason why our nation will never ever change. We are happy fighting for our right to employment, right to food, right to medicine, and several other rights. But in the process of fighting for our rights, we have forgotten our responsibilities and a nation indifferent to its responsibilities has no right to ask for its rights. When did we start deciding what to do in our lives based on what our politicians do? By doing so, we will make role models out of the very behaviour that has robbed our nation of its role model status. If we do not approve of the behaviour of our politicians, we should oppose it, not follow it. Like Abraham Lincoln said, democracy is for the people, of the people and ‘by’ the people. It is the actions of citizens such as us that will determine the quality of our democracy. And if we want to change the quality of our democracy, then we need to be the change instead of resisting it. If a PM extends subsidies, we will have a problem. If a PM abolishes subsidies, we will have a problem. If a PM asks for the rich to give up their subsidies, we have a problem. If a PM does nothing about subsidies, we will still have a problem. Instead of being a part of the solution, aren’t we just being the problem? We often say reservations for backward social groups is killing meritocracy and hurting our nation; how about the rich holding on to their subsidies? How is it that the rich are justified in holding on to their LPG subsidies, but the economically and socially backward are wrong in holding on to their reservations? A hypocritical society, can never become a meritocratic society. People bash politicians, politicians bash industrialists, industrialists bash politicians, and politicians in turn bash people; in this vicious cyclical process our nation is getting suffocated. A nation like India, frankly needs no enemies. Politician bashing is so easy to resort to and this is why it will take us nowhere. There is no doubt that there are flaws at every end, but instead of closing our hands to point fingers, let us open our hands to work together. No doubt, our politicians need to take a hundred steps in building confidence among the people; but we too need to take a few steps and giving up the LPG subsidy is one such step. If we are reluctant to take one step, isn’t is hypocritical of us to expect our politicians to take a 100 steps in the right direction? An honest and a responsible citizen who believes it is important to‪#‎GiveItUp‬   Prasanna Karthi is a management consultant, based out of Delhi. He is also a candidate select of the Graduate Program in Public Administration, at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. His Twitter handle is  Follow @prasannakarthik

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